M86 Security Secure Web Gateway 5000 review

The Secure Web Gateway 5000 delivers a unique range of web security measures with real-time content inspection amongst its defences. In this exclusive review we find out just how tough it is.

IT Pro Verdict

M86’s active real-time content inspection makes the SWG 5000 quite unique and allows it to offer very strong defences against the latest web threats. The combination of policies and rules are very versatile and cover a huge range of web threats although the new data leakage prevention feature isn’t perfect.

As web threats get ever more sophisticated businesses need to take a more proactive stance if they are to successfully defend against them. M86 Security offers a range of web security solutions and its latest Secure Web Gateways have a number of unique capabilities designed to target and eliminate the most devious of attacks.

On review is the Secure Web Gateway (SWG) 5000 appliance which is aimed enterprises looking for high performance malware detection. This 1U rack server looks up to the task as it's a quality IBM System x3550 system equipped with a pair of quad-core Xeons and fast DDR3 memory.

Installation in the lab was swift as we connected a local monitor and keyboard and used the wizard based CLI setup. During this phase you select the operational mode and we chose the all-in-one option. You can also deploy multiple appliances which provide scanning services with all reporting back to a central policy enforcement server.

The appliance defaults to an explicit proxy so you can change your client browser proxy settings using group policies or PAC scripts. The SWG 5000 can also operate transparently but it will still be necessary to redirect traffic to the appliance for scanning.

It's worth taking a closer look at the features offered by M86 that make the SWG appliances so unusual. At the top of the list is M86's patented active real-time content inspection which is designed to identify malicious code and block it.

Rather than use the more common sandbox method to run suspect code, the appliance examines the code to see what it would do. It checks it through to completion and if it doesn't like what it's doing then it blocks it.

The Anti.dote feature provides protection in the period between a new threat being identified and a patch being made available. When M86 spots a new threat, it downloads a custom rule set to the appliance allowing it to detect and block it during this phase.

Spyware protection uses a combination of behavioural analysis and known spyware URL lists. Optional anti-virus measures are offered by M86 and you can choose between Kaspersky, McAfee or Sophos.

There are more options as URL filtering via Websense or IBM's Proventia is on offer. M86 plans to offer its own solution based on the 8e6 service it acquired last year. HTTPS scanning is also another optional feature.

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.